Courts shouldn’t be cut out of school funding; amendment would undercut Kansas’ recovery

April 3, 2018

The Kansas Center for Economic Growth opposes the latest attempt (HCR 5029) to remove court oversight of public education funding through a constitutional amendment. Extreme policy caused Kansas’ current challenges, and extreme changes to our state constitution aren’t the answer.

Kansas courts and schools did not create the state’s fiscal crisis. Failed tax policy did.

The 2012 supply-side tax plan did not work, plunging the state into a budgetary crisis. During the 2017 legislative session, policymakers took a decisive step forward – ending the Kansas tax experiment in hopes of restoring programs and services that had experienced cuts over the four-year period.

KCEG said at the time that more work remained to be done and that the road to economic recovery and stability would be a long one. This is an example of such work.

Kansas is strong when we invest in the foundation of our state: great schools, affordable health care, solid infrastructure, and thriving communities.

Like a foundation, altering or limiting any one of these commitments undermines the entire structure. A constitutional amendment removing the judiciary’s role in determining adequate levels of school finance would weaken our shared foundation.

KCEG supports adequately and equitably funding K-12 education — along with the many other services that our state’s nearly 3 million residents expect and deserve.

We can make those investments. Monthly revenues continue to exceed expectations for the year, and once the fiscal year has ended we will know how much additional revenue from Senate Bill 30 is available for our state’s continued recovery from failed tax policy.

Lawmakers may be able to fund schools and begin to repair some of the damage from the Brownback tax plan with existing revenue, but long-term recovery for our state’s foundational services will require additional predictable sources of revenue. These may include applying our state’s sales tax to online retailers (HB 2756), increasing tobacco taxes (HB 2231, SB 376), and modernizing our tax code. We can also pay attention to where our state’s money is going – for instance, tracking and evaluating corporate tax incentives (HB 2753 and HB 2572).

We must also be mindful of our state’s three-legged stool of tax policy – income, property, and sales taxes are all necessary, but overreliance on any leg can unbalance the whole. The legislature should make rebalancing our tax code a priority before rewriting the Constitution.

Lawmakers should reject calls for a constitutional amendment removing the judiciary’s role in determining adequate levels of school finance.

Kansas has the resources to support the foundation of our success, as long as we work together. KCEG stands ready to work with any legislator of any party to work toward identifying sustainable and renewable sources of revenue.

Read KCEG’s testimony to the House Judiciary Committee opposing HCR 5029.

ClayCourts shouldn’t be cut out of school funding; amendment would undercut Kansas’ recovery